Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | July 11, 2012

Vocabulary Fail

A patient of mine was recently admitted to the hospital for abdominal pain that just would not go away. She went to the ER several times, and was finally admitted for further study and inpatient pain relief.

What’s the problem? Here is the note I received from the hospitalists’ office telling me about the admission:

Patient is being admitted for retractable pain.

“Retractable”? Can she pull the pain up inside her and take off, like an airplane? Can she apologize and take the pain back, as if it never happened? Can she pull the pain aside like abdominal muscles during surgery for a better view inside? WTF??

The correct word, clearly not part of the secretary’s vocabulary, is “intractable”, as in (#3, of course):

  1. not easily controlled or directed not docile or manageable; stubborn; obstinate
  2. hard to shape or work with
  3. hard to treat, relieve, or cure

Persnickety software plus non-English speakers have been known to yield such prizes as “gold ladder” for gall bladder, but for the record, this is clearly a vocabulary issue and not a speech-recognition one. I can’t tell if the hospital just needs to upgrade their academic hiring requirements, or if this is just another sad commentary on the tragic state of education today.

Oh well. I guess I’ll just pull myself back into my shell. Or at least I will when it stops hurting so much.



  1. Our institution was recently blessed with the hospital-wide email announcement that Such-and-Such a nurse manager would be unavailable due to Maturity Leave.

  2. Sounds like a wise woman, Anon.

  3. As an RN I’m astonished at how many medical histories I’ve read which describe such things as “a pleasant 34-year old male with complaints of extreme pelvic pain coinciding with his menstrual cycle….” Always wondered about those reports….

  4. I think you are wrong. This is likely due to either dragon voice ware recognition software or a dictation issue. I have used dragon and words end up sometimes looking nothing like the spelling. Then if you add English as a second language with an accent. That is where the real fun begins.

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